10 FEBRUARY, 2016
Speech to the International Gambling Conference 2016, Auckland
Tena koutou katoa, good morning and thank you for the invitation to speak today at the opening of the Sixth International Gambling Conference.
This is an important event in the national and international gambling calendar and I am pleased to note that it is my first official speaking engagement in New Zealand for 2016.
The theme of the conference is Preventing harm in a shifting gambling environment: Challenges, Policies and Strategies.
Once again, this year the conference is host to a wide range of international delegates.
I would like to begin by welcoming all of you, in particular our international guests and distinguished speakers, some of whom have travelled from around the globe to be here.
There are approximately 250 delegates here from 12 different countries which accounts for the diversity of the programme, which I note includes presentations from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the USA and New Zealand.
In particular I would like to acknowledge:
• Professor Stacey Tovino from the School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA
• Associate Professor Darrel Manitowabi from the Anthropology Programme at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada
• Professor Nerilee Hing from Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia, and
• Dr Barry Duncan, therapist, trainer and researcher, from the USA.
I would also like to acknowledge those visitors from overseas and within New Zealand who yesterday participated in the International Indigenous Event and those who will attend the International Think Tank on Gambling Policy and Research Practice next week.
In addition to my role of Associate Minister of Health, I am also the Minister of Internal Affairs.
I have held both of these roles at various stages over the last two decades or so, however, this is the first time I have done so at the same time.
The significance of that is that as Minister of Internal Affairs I am essentially the regulator, whereas as Associate of Health I am responsible for minimising the adverse effects of gambling.
It is pleasing to see the strong linkages that exist between the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health.
I see the ‘dovetailing’ of these two ministerial roles as a positive, enabling me to maintain a broad overview of the wider gambling and harm minimisation sectors.
New Zealand’s Gambling Act was passed in 2003.
It is a large and complex piece of legislation, which notably includes provision to “prevent and minimise harm from gambling, including problem gambling”.
The Department of Internal Affairs administers the Gambling Act and although it is considered to be, by and large, still working, it is now timely to have another look at how the Act operates.
I believe that some change is warranted.
An assessment will be undertaken of the regulatory environment.
This assessment will be about better understanding the dynamics of the Class 4 or non-casino electronic gaming machines sector, and in the wider gambling environment, and what they mean for the current regulatory framework.
I am very pleased that the Class 4 operators have established their own representative group to work with the Department on this process, and am looking forward to what I hope will be a constructive interaction.
In the next couple of months, once my Ministerial colleagues and I have received some preliminary advice, we will decide on the next steps.
That said, it is clear to me that we need to restore greater public confidence in the Class 4 gambling sector.
Gaming or ‘pokie’ machine operators are obliged to prevent and minimise the harm that gambling can cause.
Research, and our own service user data, shows that there is a need to strengthen performance in this area.
I understand that the Health Promotion Agency has done some work with venue staff across the country to find out what barriers and challenges they face in undertaking their host responsibility obligations with gambling customers.
Work has been done on support materials to make these interactions easier for venue staff and this material was distributed for circulation late last year.
The Health Promotion Agency’s work aims to initiate long-term behaviour change, so that over time venue staff will take an increased interest in all gambling behaviour.
Public confidence will only be built by a demonstrable commitment to player protection and basing the industry on responsible gambling, not on those gambling to excess.
In New Zealand gambling harm is taken seriously – the comprehensive range of presentations from New Zealand providers at this Conference is testament to that.
Since its enactment in 2003, the Gambling Act’s emphasis on public health has remained a central focus of the Ministry of Health’s strategy to prevent and minimise gambling harm.
From 1 July 2016, the latest 2016/17 to 2018/19 Strategy comes into play.
It calls for an innovative approach.
The proposal document outlining the new strategy is currently featured on the Ministry’s website.
The Strategy has always emphasised the need to address gambling-related health inequities, particularly the relatively high prevalence of gambling harm among Māori and Pacific peoples.
The 2012 National Gambling Study confirmed this higher prevalence, and concluded that such inequities had persisted since the first national gambling study was conducted in 1991.
It also indicated that many moderate-risk problem gamblers were Māori, Pacific or Asian.
Many of you work in problem-gambling treatment services dedicated to those target populations, and there is evidence that you are reaching the people you need.
Recent increases in service uptake by Pacific peoples meant that by 2013/14 almost 60 percent of help-seekers were Māori, Pacific or East Asian.
This means it is also important that all our services have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of this culturally diverse country in which we live.
Despite many encouraging developments, more could and should be done.
Accordingly, perhaps the most important proposal in the draft Strategy for 2016/17 to 2018/19 is a long-term priority action to develop, pilot, evaluate and implement one or more initiatives specifically focused on reducing persistent gambling harm-related health inequities.
We know that those living in more deprived areas are also more likely to experience gambling harm.
Rates of hazardous drinking, tobacco use, other drug use and psychological distress tend to be much higher among problem gamblers, and to a lesser extent, among moderate-risk and low-risk gamblers, than in the general population.
The new Strategy will continue work to align services to prevent and minimise gambling harm and other health and social services over the next three years.
A number of stakeholders have considered the patterns of online gambling in overseas jurisdictions and raised concerns about the potential for a dramatic increase in New Zealanders’ participation in online gambling, due to proposals to increase internet speed and capacity and increasing use of online payment methods.
The research findings on this topic are inconclusive.
Most studies suggest that the majority of online gamblers in New Zealand, of which there are relatively few, still largely purchase only New Zealand Lotteries Commission and New Zealand Racing Board projects.
The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments in this area.
Our strategy includes a focus on prevention using a population based health approach, and importantly it also incorporates a research component that includes population surveys on gambling, clinical trials, and service evaluations.
The Ministry is currently funding a National Gambling Study – the largest piece of gambling research undertaken in New Zealand in the last fifteen years.
The study started in 2012 and involved face-to-face interviews with 6,251 New Zealanders aged 18 years or older.
The first three reports from this study were on gambling participation, gambling harm, attitudes towards gambling in 2012.
The National Gambling Study found in 2012 that most adults in New Zealand gamble at least occasionally – around 80 percent participate in gambling at least once a year.
However, only a minority participate in any gambling activity other than buying New Zealand Lotteries commission products or raffle tickets.
For example, 62 percent of adults bought a Lotto ticket at least once in the previous year, but only 14 percent played a pokie machine.
The fourth and latest National Gambling Study report, published in 2015, provides updated evidence on gambling participation and problem gambling in 2013.
It includes an examination of gamblers transitions both to, and away from, higher risk gambling and discusses the factors associated with these transitions.
This report is notable in providing for the first time, national ‘incidence’ estimates.
This means that this is the first study in New Zealand and only the second national study in the world to assess the number of people who develop a problem for the first time – as well as assess the number who relapse and the number who cease having problems.
To reduce the incidence and prevalence of problem gambling and other gambling-related harms, both population-wide prevention strategies and those tailored to at-risk groups are needed – including prevention strategies for high risk ethnic groups.
Long-standing disparities will persist and potentially deepen, unless more effective ways are found to address this issue.
The research identified a number of additional factors that put people at risk of becoming moderate-risk or problem gamblers, including gambling frequency.
Those who took part in ten or more gambling activities in the 12 month period were nearly sixteen times more likely to become a problem or moderate-risk gambler than adults who had participated in just one gambling activity over the same timeframe.
Two research projects in particular have caught my eye – in 2014 the Ministry commissioned a feasibility study on a smart-phone application to prevent gambling harm associated with EGM venues and also a pilot of a financial literacy programme for Māori and Pacific clients.
The smart phone ‘app’ uses GPS location mapping to send harm minimisation messages or video to clients when they are approaching venues or are in them to help them keep to their goals.
The initial findings from the smart-phone study are promising, and indicate the application is technically reliable and is supported by clients and counsellors.
This is the first time GPS location mapping is being used with smart-phone technology to address gambling-related harm in New Zealand (and possibly internationally as well).
The findings from the financial literacy study indicate that both clients and counsellors increased their financial knowledge and skills and improved their ability to address gambling-related debt and spending.
Through our research programme we are fortunate to be able to generate quality evidence on changes in gambling-related harm over time, and the effectiveness of interventions for preventing and minimising this harm.
This allows the Ministry, the New Zealand public and sector stakeholders to be informed about the impact of gambling.
This conference gives us the opportunity to share knowledge and expertise from our collective experience.
This is a chance for you as participants to find out about the work and research programmes underway across the world, and perhaps closer to home as well.
For all of you, whether you are working to prevent and minimise gambling-related harm, to provide treatment and support to people experiencing gambling harm, or to undertake research, connecting and communicating is a fundamental part of your role.
This conference is an excellent opportunity for you all to connect and communicate with each other, to learn from each other, and to continue to build on your knowledge and expertise.
I encourage you all to make the most of the opportunity.
I, and this government, take gambling harm seriously, and I will continue to push the Ministry to ensure it is deriving the best value for money from the approximately $18 million invested in preventing and minimising gambling harm this year.
I would like to reiterate my best wishes to you all for a productive and informative few days.
To our overseas guests, I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the diverse sights, sounds, food, drink and activities that Auckland and New Zealand have to offer.
I thank you for your attention, and I wish you well in your work.